H and I got our flu vaccines a week ago. He got the flu mist, and I got a flu shot.
The window during which either of would have experienced side effects has closed. H did not love the seven seconds it took to administer the nasal spray, but otherwise suffered no ill effects from the vaccine. My left arm, the one that took the injection, was achingly sore, then back to feeling completely normal after a day and a half.
By the end of another week, our bodies will have developed the antibodies that protect against four strains of influenza virus that research suggests will be most common this winter. For those that geek out over stuff like this, all 2014-2015 flu vaccine is made to protect against an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus, an A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)-like virus, and a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus. The quadrivalent vaccine, which we received, protects against a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus as well.
It is not possible to know exactly what this flu season will bring. Some seasons are relatively mild, some more severe. Some seasons are short, some are drawn out. Some years see an excellent match between the flu strains included in the vaccine and those circulating, some do not.
Influenza spreads every year. This much is certain. The flu can make some people more sick than others, but even the most healthy can fall seriously ill. On average, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for illnesses associated with influenza , and estimates of influenza-related deaths (based on data from 1976 to 2007) have ranged from 3,300 to 49,000 a year. The World Heath Organization estimates that the flu results worldwide in about three to five million cases of severe illness yearly, and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic, as bad as it’s yet been, killed somewhere around 50 million people, more than died in World War I. Influenza can be nasty.
We will, of course, be doing everything we can to stay healthy this winter, including washing hands often, avoiding contact with people known to be sick, getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of water, and eating well. We’ll cover our coughs, and if we do get sick, we’ll stay home to prevent spreading illness to others. We’ll do these things knowing that we’ve also done the single best thing we can do to reduce the chances that either of us will get the flu and spread it to other people. We got our flu vaccines.
Luckily, there was no wait at the clinic this year, so before long we were enjoying a self-styled frozen yogurt sampler, drawing with chalk, and debating the relative merits of returning to the car via escalator or elevator. It was close, but the elevator won in the end, and before we knew it we were on our way, our bodies doing the excellent work of keeping us healthy and strong with a little extra help from a vaccine.